From the Cutting Edge of Church Planting

DCPI Logo

The following is an account of Gospel victory among a distinct but small people group in the Philippines. Why is this important? Well, it is important for at least 5 reasons:

  1. Scripture says that heaven will be composed of peoples from every tribe and tongue (Rev. 14:6).
  2. All peoples are significant and need the gospel no matter how many or few there are (Acts 17:26-27).
  3. Christians will be encouraged by the dramatic story of God’s faithfulness.
  4. Unbelievers might pause to reconsider the veracity of the supernatural and the truth of the gospel.
  5. Other Church planters will be strengthened in their resolve to reach their communities with the life-transforming news of the gospel.

DCPI ConferenceDynamic Church Planting International is a principle-based church planting organization that has probably trained more church planters both here in North America and around the world, to plant more churches than any other church planting organization in the world in the history of the church. That’s a big statement but it’s true. The fact that few people know who they are is a tribute to the singular focus of their highly effective ministry. They are interested in training church planters, not self-promotion.

This account comes from Paul and Cathy Becker’s Spring Newsletter.

When an indigenous couple, Bishop Roper and his wife, Mhel, received DCPI training in the Philippines, they wanted to bring the gospel to the Umayamnon tribe, an unreached people group of over 6,000 members.

From their home, they traveled by car and on foot to the top of a mountain, where this tribe lives.

One day, Mhel approached the tribal chief with the simple offer of prayer. He accepted with surprised to himself. This is because the Umayamnon had some history with missionaries; they had seen the Jesus Film and the Passion of Christ but could not relate because in those films Jesus was surrounded by white people that did not look like them. They felt accused when the heard, “repent!” They said they were not the one who crucified Jesus.

But while Mhel prayed, the Holy Spirit convicted the chieftain, and when she was finished praying, he expressed openness to the Gospel. He received Jesus as his Lord and Saior. Immediately the entire tribe was open ot the Gospel message! Since then, many of them have been baptized; others are being discipled.

One day, the chief told the tribe that they needed to burn their idols because they now knew Jesus Christ to be their Lord and Savior, and the one true God. They brought their idols and totems together and burned them. About 30 minutes later, the grandson of the chief died. Roper saw a black cloud; God told Mhel to praise and thank God; she did so and exhorted the stricken parents to worship and not turn back; they did so, and the baby revived after 30 minutes.

Following the death and resurrection of the tribal chief’s grandson, the community asked Roper and his wife to come weekly for fellowship and worship. They consented; thus began a Sunday service.

The tribespeople had been planting marijuana, but with the planting of the word of God in their hearts, ALL of them stopped. Instead, they started planting corn and vegetables.

This village has undergone a beautiful transformation, embodying God’s inner work on their hearts. We are so grateful for this peek into God’s work in a remote part of the Philippines, and grateful to Him for letting us be a tool in His hand.

God is at work in the world!

Thank God for the work of DCPI and the church planters they are training around the world. One pastor in the Philippines tearfully shared, “I’ve been in ministry for 50 years, and this is the best training I’ve ever received in my entire life.”

Here is another excerpt from DCPI 

We want to extend a huge “Thank You” to you as one of the leaders who God has used to make this happen.  Besides the Lord, the people who make up Team DCPI are our greatest asset.  World Zone Leaders, Senior Master Trainers, Master Trainers, and Certified Trainers all working together and giving the time, energy, and passion to equip over 31,000 leaders in 2016!

The fact is, that if these 31,948 leaders that we have trained in 2016 are as productive as the leaders we have trained in the past, there will be over 87,000 churches started all over the world in the next 3 to 5 years.

All I can say is, “WOW!” and “Great job team” … “Great job God!” 

Paul Becker’s Personal Ministry Newsletter

Praise God for the great work of the gospel going forward.

A Divine Mentor

The Divine MentorI have been home in bed for two days trying to conserve my strength as I battle the flu. It has given me much time to read, between nodding off from exhaustion. One of the books occupying my time is Wayne Cordeiro’s The Divine Mentor (Bethany House, 2007). I have known Pastor Cordeiro’s ministry story for some time and the concepts related in the book but I had never read the book itself. 

But last week I taught my ART OF BIBLICAL MEDITATION seminar in Baltimore for a group of hungry men (and one woman) and it was the book I recommended as a great place to begin the process of learning more about daily meditation on the word of God. Glad I did. 

Here’s a quote from the flyleaf of the book:

In The Divine Mentor, you will discover how to enjoy a dynamic, vital, and intimate relationship with God as you learn to hear Him speak daily through the Bible. You’ll embark on an adventure that will introduce you to His handpicked mentors, men and women who may save your health, your marriage, your ministry and your future.”

The book is not complex. It is simple without being simplistic. It is practical and inspirational. 

If you are looking for a book to inspire both you and the people you are discipling to be in the word on a daily basis, you won’t go wrong with this choice. 

Buy it.
Read it.
Apply it.

Christians Need to Tell Better a Story

The following is excerpted from Kairos Journal. While it deals with the somewhat arcane subject of work ethics, it has much broader application. As the culture drifts further away from biblical values, Christians need to shift more (not all) of their tactics from public disputation (which must continue) to better art, better literature, better poetry, better novels, and better movies where the beauty, integrity, wisdom and truth of a biblical worldview can reveal to dying culture around us.

Pray for that and give your encouragement to those among us who are fighting the battle in the entertainment and classical arts. 

The Real Biblical Work Ethic

The New York dramatist, Elmer Rice (1892-1967), is best known for his 1923 play, The Adding Machine. foIts main character, Mr. Zero, spends 25 years of his life faithfully crunching numbers r a department store until he is replaced by a machine. In a fit of rage, Mr. Zero kills his boss, only to find himself adding and subtracting in hell. For Mr. Zero, life boiled down to punching a time clock and receiving a paycheck—it was a meaningless existence that led to a meaningless afterlife. In The Adding Machine, Rice satirized his perception of the Protestant work ethic. He was wrong. The Protestant or, better yet, Christian work ethic is about much more than punctuality and profit.

Rice’s dreary view of the work ethic is attributed to Max Weber, author of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, first published in 1905.1 Weber linked the Reformers’ exaltation of work with the rise of capitalist greed. This thesis must not go unanswered or God’s view of work will be lost. Two careful thinkers who did much to restore a biblical view of work are theologian Carl F. H. Henry (1913 -2003) and the British businessman and politician, Sir Fred Catherwood (1925 – ). Henry cut down the Weber thesis, arguing that the Christian work ethic is only loosely connected to the modern “success” ethic. Catherwood continued the discussion with a positive explanation as to what it means to be a “working” Christian.2

Fifty years after the debut of The Adding Machine, Henry confronted a generation of youth supposedly condemning capitalism by rebelling against the Protestant work ethic. Henry wanted them to understand capitalism is not equivalent to the Christian work ethic; in fact, secular society, as Henry put it, “is almost entirely severed from Christian roots.”3 Indeed, Henry attributed the “success ethic” of modern America more to the rags to riches stories of Horatio Alger (1832 – 1899) than the theology of Luther or Calvin.4 Scripture approves a hard day’s work (the heart of Alger’s philosophy), but when reduced to merely this, the Christian work ethic becomes a secular work ethic and, thus, a “radical rejection of Christianity . . . motivated more by spiritual rebellion than by ethical earnestness.”5 Henry was clear: simply working hard for profit is not working for God—God has a greater design for our labor.

Catherwood explained that God’s design for work is about more than punching a timecard and earning a paycheck; it’s about honoring God and loving neighbor. God is honored when His creatures reflect back His creativity and efficiency in making the heavens and the earth. Therefore, the Christian worker innovates, improves, and pushes himself to the very limit. According to Catherwood, the Christian “has a duty to train himself and develop his abilities, both academically and experimentally, to the limit that his other responsibilities allow . . . He should not stop until it is quite clear that he has reached his ceiling.”Furthermore, Christians love their neighbors by exemplifying a quiet lifestyle of hard work to their non-Christian friends. By obeying God’s command to work, the believer, said Catherwood, “demonstrates the nature and purpose of God to those who do not believe. . .”7 Indeed, hard work can be evangelistic!

Society needs the correctives offered by Henry and Catherwood. Not only has hard work fallen on hard times, but when the modern person hears of the “Protestant work ethic,” too often they think of nothing more than the grim world of The Adding Machine (which has been revived on stages throughout the U.S. and U.K.), the quiet despair of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, and the hollow life of an insurance actuary in Alexander Payne’s 2002 movie, About Schmidt.

It remains for the Church to tell a different tale, a better tale. . . .

Footnotes:

1 See Kairos Journal article, “The Atheist Sloth Ethic.”

2 See Kairos Journal article, “Pious Diligence in Australia.”

3 Carl F. H. Henry, “The Christian Work Ethic,” Christianity Today (January 7, 1972): 23.

4 Horatio Alger (1832 – 1899) marketed the American Dream through a series of books whose popularity was overshadowed only by the books of Mark Twain. He convinced a nation that regardless of one’s humble beginnings, through hard work and integrity anyone could obtain success.

5 Henry, 23.

6 Fred Catherwood, “The Protestant Work Ethic: Attitude and Application Give It Meaning,” Fundamentalist Journal 2 (September 1983): 23.

7 Ibid., 22.

Haunting Quotes Filled with Truth

“We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”

Madeleine L’Engle.

“O God, give me grace to be a light to the world. Give me joy in showing mercy and the humility that is appropriate for a sinner who has no righteousness apart from the righteousness of Christ imputed to me. In Jesus name and for His glory I ask it.”

Parenting as An Act of Rebellion Against American Culture

amusing-ourselves-to-death

The book was written in 1986, (how is it possible that 30 years have passed?) but it is more relevant now than it was then. Neil Postman prophetically spoke of this 21st-century culture when he wrote Amusing Ourselves to Death

I think the mindset that is needed today is exactly what Neil Postman recommended 30 years ago. We need a movement of Christian parents who see their job of raising children as a front line of rebellion against American culture. Why? Because the culture is no longer (if it ever was) a friend of the gospel or of gospel people.

The article below is from the good folks at Kairos Journal. I have added some bold text emphasis. It is short but on point.

Parents, buy the book and read it. 

Parenting as Cultural Resistance—Neil Postman (1931 – 2003)

Neil Postman was one of the finest secular prophets of the twentieth century. Associated with New York University for over four decades, he is best known in the Christian community for his analysis of the effects of television in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death.1 His decades-long revolt against the supremacist claims of technology remains a vital corrective in contemporary culture. In his book entitled The Disappearance of Childhood, he offers a painful lament at the destruction of childhood through the ‘total disclosure’ of information to children. He concludes the book with a poignant question and answer:

Is the individual powerless to resist what is happening?

The answer to this, in my opinion, is “No.” But, as with all resistance, there is a price to pay. Specifically, resistance entails conceiving of parenting as an act of rebellion against American culture. For example, for parents merely to remain married is itself an act of disobedience and an insult to the spirit of a throwaway culture in which continuity has little value. It is also at least ninety percent un-American to remain in close proximity to one’s extended family so that children can experience, daily, the meaning of kinship and the value of deference and responsibility to elders. Similarly, to insist that one’s children learn the discipline of delayed gratification, or modesty in their sexuality, or self-restraint in manners, language, and style is to place oneself in opposition to almost every social trend. Even further, to ensure that one’s children work hard at becoming literate is extraordinarily time-consuming and even expensive. But most rebellious of all is the attempt to control the media’s access to one’s children. There are, in fact, two ways to do this. The first is to limit the amount of exposure children have to media. The second is to monitor carefully what they are exposed to, and to provide them with a continuously running critique of the themes and values of the media’s content. Both are very difficult to do and require a level of attention that most parents are not prepared to give to child-rearing.

Nonetheless, there are parents who are committed to doing all of these things, who are in effect defying the directives of their culture. Such parents are not only helping their children to have a childhood but are, at the same time, creating a sort of intellectual elite. Certainly in the short run the children who grow up in such homes will, as adults, be much favored by business, the professions, and the media themselves. What can we say of the long run? Only this: Those parents who resist the spirit of the age will contribute to what might be called the Monastery Effect, for they will help to keep alive a humane tradition. It is not conceivable that our culture will forget that it needs children. But it is halfway toward forgetting that children need childhood. Those who insist on remembering shall perform a noble service.2

Footnotes:
1  Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (New York: Penguin, 1986).

2  Neil Postman, The Disappearance of Childhood (1982; repr., New York: Vintage, 1994), 152-153.

Part of the Fun of A Home Garden

Before refrigeration and big grocery stores people had more gardens and carrots had more variety. Then TV came, grocery stores got big, refrigeration became easier, and Bugs Bunny convinced everyone that the preferable carrot color was orange. But God’s color pallet is much bigger and these heirloom carrots are going to be good in some dishes at our house.

The small pumpkin is just for contrast. It is about the size of a major league baseball. Enjoy the Fall.

Fall Carrot Harvest
Early Fall Carrot Harvest

 

A Slice of Ancient History for Our Situation

Ambrose of MilanThe Church needs to know what battles to fight and what battles to let go. Toward that end, we can learn much from Church history. Or …, we could ignore the lessons of the past and just repeat the same mistakes? 

Let’s not do that.

Here’s a lesson from the past for the modern Church that we would be well to heed in our politicized and secular culture.

The following is from the Kairos Journal.

To God, What Belongs to God—Ambrose & Valentinian (385)

In the spring of 385, Milan stood on the brink of anarchy. Valentinian, the fourteen-year-old Roman Emperor, was trying to seize control of a church called the Portian Basilica. Supported by his Arian1 court, he wanted to establish a heretical church. Yet in the face of peril, Bishop Ambrose would not give in; too much was at stake. He was willing to be martyred if necessary, but he would not give up a church to the emperor.2

Emperor Valentinian reigned for a number of years alongside his half-brother Gratian, whose basic beliefs were soundly Christian. But when Gratian died in 383, royal support for orthodoxy collapsed. Arians increasingly dominated Valentinian’s court, and eventually they goaded him into demanding the Portian Basilica.

Bishop Ambrose rebuffed him, so the emperor made another request—that he be given the newly built cathedral instead. Ambrose again refused, and on Palm Sunday, things came to the boiling point. As the bishop was celebrating the Eucharist in the cathedral, he heard that the emperor’s functionaries were installing imperial hangings in the basilica. Ambrose carried on with the service, but a group of protesters soon formed in the city square. They seized a passing Arian priest and would have killed him had not Ambrose intervened by sending several deacons and priests to save him.

That night the emperor fined and imprisoned many of the leading orthodox citizens. The next morning the faithful responded by occupying both the Portian Basilica and the cathedral. The military encircled the basilica, but Ambrose and his flock stood fast. Citing Mark 12:17: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s,” they insisted that the basilica was not one of “the things that are Caesar’s.” Soon even Valentinian’s troops began joining the congregation in worship. Frustrated by the populace’s defense of their bishop and the Church, the emperor withdrew his troops.

Valentinian should have anticipated Ambrose’s resolve since this churchman had earlier excommunicated another emperor, Theodosius, for atrocious behavior in office. Bishop Ambrose did not take ecclesiastic prerogatives lightly. Neither should twenty-first-century Church leaders, whether the government sends in troops or mere bureaucrats.

God’s people must pick their battles; confrontation is not always the answer. But a Church which picks no battles, one which never finds confrontation the answer, is likely to be a puzzle, a disappointment, and an embarrassment to brothers and sisters in the fray and to “the great cloud of witnesses,” including Ambrose, who have gone before.

Footnotes:
1 Arians denied the deity of Christ.
2 St. Ambrose, “Letter 61,” St. Ambrose’s Letters 1-91, in The Fathers of the Church, vol. 26 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America, 1954), 365-375.